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Selective US concerns over Arab repression

If President Barack Obama wanted to place Washington “on the right side of history” during the ongoing “Arab Spring”, his reaction to recent events in Bahrain will likely make that far more difficult.

While Obama and his Administration has called for regime change in Libya, it has remained remarkably restrained about the escalating crackdown by the Sunni monarchy in Bahrain against the majority Shia population and prominent pro-democracy figures.

[Journalist Pepe Escobar writes in the Asia Times Online: “You invade Bahrain. We take out Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. This, in short, is the essence of a deal struck between the Barack Obama administration and the House of Saud [which controls Saudi Arabia]. Two diplomatic sources at the United Nations independently confirmed that Washington, via Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, gave the go-ahead for Saudi Arabia to invade Bahrain and crush the pro-democracy movement in their neighbor in exchange for a ‘yes’ vote by the Arab League for a no-fly zone over Libya….”]

Citizens have been killed by security forces in Bahrain, while hundreds have been arrested or are otherwise unaccounted for, according to international rights groups. Three detainees have died in custody, at least one apparently from “horrific abuse“, Human Rights Watch said.

Last weekend, Human Rights Watch accused the regime of creating a “climate of fear”, particularly in Shia neighborhoods and villages where night-time raids appear designed mainly to instill terror among the mostly poor residents. Professionals, including doctors, lawyers, and human rights activists, have not been immune from the repression. Media critical of the government have been effectively muzzled, bloggers arrested, local journalists hauled into court, and foreign journalists expelled. Even star football players have been booted off the national team and arrested for taking part in peaceful protests.

At the White House, however, silence has prevailed, suggesting to many observers that Obama is effectively acquiescing in, if not condoning, what is taking place.

That impression got a big boost when Defence Secretary Robert Gates visited Saudi Arabia last week in an apparent effort to mend ties that were badly frayed by Washington’s support for the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February and by its initial opposition to the deployment Mar. 14 – that is, on the eve of the martial-law declaration – of some 1,500 Saudi and Emirati troops to Bahrain with the apparent intention to strengthen the resolve of King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa to crack down hard against the pro- democracy movement.

Finally, Washington’s failure to strongly denounce the repression and its apparent efforts to appease the Saudis undermine its pose as a champion of human rights and democracy in region, exposing it instead as a cynical player of realpolitik, according to Chris Toensing, director of the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP). “There’s a strong suspicion that at least tacit consent was given to the Bahrainis and Saudis to do their worst in exchange for Arab League support for the no-fly zone in Libya,” he added

[Excerpts of blog article by Jim Lobe]

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One Response to “Selective US concerns over Arab repression”

  1. […] it is no surprise Beijing has connected the dots between Libya being bombed and Bahrain and Yemen getting away with repression of pro-democracy protests. The 5th Fleet calls Bahrain home, […]


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